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Houston Texans 2017 2nd round pick, Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
I tend to like analysis, positive and negative, especially when it's backed up by actual football takes.

I think he's going to do well, but I get where me tex is coming from. He doesn't flash. Still extremely effective though.
As do I... just surprised people think he's a less than stellar addition to our defense. He's coming into the best situation of any LB drafted imo in terms of expectation and how he fits into a defense. Basically roles are reversed between him and Foster. Now he's the LB on a stacked defense.
 

WolverineFan

Hall of Fame
He was the middle lb. what are they going to do? Throw bubble screens all day? Block him with two guys on every play?

How were teams going to scheme away from the MLB?
Scheme against not scheme away from. Can't really scheme away from a MLB since they are in the middle action but you can game plan for him and it's a heck of a lot easier to game plan for one good player than it is to game plan for 7-8.
 

beerlover

Hall of Fame
That argument goes both ways though. Cunningham could rack up stats in a bad defense because nobody else could make plays but he was also the only player worth scheming against so teams could focus on him and know they were unlikely to suffer from it at the hands of one of his teammates.

Teams couldn't scheme against Foster and single him out like they could Cunningham because the Bama defense still had Allen, Tomlinson, Hand, Williams, Anderson, Humphrey, Fitzpatrick, Harrison, etc. to pick up the slack. Kind of hard to say Cunningham was padding stats on a bad defense when Foster was playing behind 3 NFL D-Linemen and with 2 NFL pass rushers next to him at OLB.




Lance Zeirlein compared him to Alec Ogletree because of his combination of athletic ability and unique length for the position. Cunningham is lankier/longer and more athletic but Ogletree is thicker and plays stronger. Personally I think he's very similar to K.J. Wright.

Does make a nice duo w/McKinney who Texans traded up to get a couple drafts ago in the second round. Cunningham has a much higher ceiling too. This really sets up Texan inside LB position for years to come. Maybe next they can apply same priority to the offensive line?
 

WolverineFan

Hall of Fame
Does make a nice duo w/McKinney who Texans traded up to get a couple drafts ago in the second round. Cunningham has a much higher ceiling too. This really sets up Texan inside LB position for years to come. Maybe next they can apply same priority to the offensive line?
Would be nice but will be pretty tough to add impact OL with no picks until 3rd round next year.
 

powda

Baby can you dig your man?
This is the first year since the mid 90's in which i paid little attention to prospects. Just tired of knowing who i want the Texans to get and watching them grab some bust instead.

So that said im ignorant about cunningham. Does he replace Simon at slb? Does he force cush to move to slb? Is he a 3 down backer?

The reports ive seen say he moves well but misses tackles. Is he our answer to rb's out of the backfield?
 

The Pencil Neck

Hall of Fame
This is the first year since the mid 90's in which i paid little attention to prospects. Just tired of knowing who i want the Texans to get and watching them grab some bust instead.

So that said im ignorant about cunningham. Does he replace Simon at slb? Does he force cush to move to slb? Is he a 3 down backer?

The reports ive seen say he moves well but misses tackles. Is he our answer to rb's out of the backfield?
Pretty much yes to most of that.

Cunningham is a bit of a wildcard. I think most of us see him as Cush's eventual replacement, but at Vandy he wasn't just a Mike. He moved around quite a bit. So he could possibly take Simon's spot in some circumstances OR they might put him inside and slide Cush over to take Simon's spot in some cases.

Everyone considers him a 3 down player and he has some coverage ability, but I'd be hesitant putting him on NFL running backs and tight ends without a helluva lot of work. I'd see him more as a zone guy.

He "misses" tackles for the most part because:
1) He gets places he shouldn't have been able to get to and he's able to lay hands on guys most guys wouldn't have been close to. So that counts as missed tackles, but they're mostly just him not QUITE getting there in time.
2) He has his own "style" of tackling. He's more of a get to someone from the side, wrap his arms around them and then drag them down kind of guy instead of a hit them head on, wrap them up, and drive through them kind of guy. With that said, he's really good at taking people down his way. He tackles guys that I would have been sure would be able to run through his arm tackles.

With some coaching, he has the potential to be amazing.

Even though he made a ton of tackles, it's not like the old Morlon Greenwood kind of tackle that's 5-10 yards too late. He makes a lot of tackles for loss and tackles right at the line of scrimmage. He's ended some games by keeping people from making the sticks on fourth down, and he's kept lots of guys out of the endzone in goalline situations.

I'm really excited to see what this kid is going to develop into.
 

76Texan

Hall of Fame
He allowed enough guys to get into the end zone when he shouldn't have.

He was there on time on many of the miss-tackles.

He's far from great in coverage.

He's a second rounder with potential; that's about it.
 

sandman

Brexit Advisor
He allowed enough guys to get into the end zone when he shouldn't have.

He was there on time on many of the miss-tackles.

He's far from great in coverage.

He's a second rounder with potential; that's about it.
Geez, some of you drafniks try too hard to sound like the smartest guy in the room.

"Pointy elbows. 2/10. Would not bang"

He is a highly decorated SEC linebacker joining a top 5 defense in the league with multiple Pro-Bowlers. The kid will be just fine. Even if the only thing he is is a second rounder with potential.
 

76Texan

Hall of Fame
The world is not full of just sunshine; even if it is, UV can be bad for ya ;-)

If it was the case, we would all still be living in caves.
Only because our ancestors realize that they need to combat the elements that we now live in comfortable homes with AC, etc.

Why do you think Gruden pointed out to Watson that he needs to find ways to cut down the Ints and the batted balls?

Similarly, it's not fine until Cunningham learns to tackle better, among other things.
Giving up TDs and first downs is not fine, committing PI is not fine.
 
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IDEXAN

Hall of Fame
Contributor's Club
Lance Zeirlein compared him to Alec Ogletree because of his combination of athletic ability and unique length for the position. Cunningham is lankier/longer and more athletic but Ogletree is thicker and plays stronger. Personally I think he's very similar to K.J. Wright.
I read where somebody else made a comparison of Cunningham to a young Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs all-pro LB and former outstanding college player at UT as both are lengthy and very instinctive.
 

thunderkyss

Just win baby!!!
Staff member
Contributor's Club
Maybe Not at his current weight and strength. But his scouting report says his frame can take 10 or 15 pounds without effecting his performance levels. He's currently at about 235. At 250?
I kinda like 235lbs.

Teams need to find away to adjust to these big athletic TEs that seem to be coming out of the woodwork now. I think the NFL has been trying to answer with biggish safeties. I'd like to see how smallish LBs work. Of course it would have to be implemented on a situational substitution kind of thing.
 

thunderkyss

Just win baby!!!
Staff member
Contributor's Club
Tape over combine. His combine 40 say that he's faster than Cush when he came out....His tape doesn't show he plays as fast as though. The separation here is simple. Play recognition. Cunningham's play diagnosis needs serious work. Sure they'll be used differently, but go watch a heat seeking missle like Rueben Foster & then click on Cunningham's....the difference is pretty stark...at least to me. The good news is Vrabes and co. can help him improve in that regard...& i think they will. The bad news is I still don't think that's gonna put him over the top b/c that won't make him a playmaker, it'll just make him serviceable as a MLB...to top it off, i didn't see a whole lot of pass rushing skills...& given what the Texans drafted him for, that just won't cut it.
How do you compare Foster to Benardrick McKinney?
 

thunderkyss

Just win baby!!!
Staff member
Contributor's Club
It's not fine until Cunningham learns to tackle better, among other things.
Giving up TDs and first downs is not fine, committing PI is not fine.
I definitely agree it shouldn't be overlooked.

However, even with all his flaws, he made a lot of tackles. You mentioned he was in the right place, right time to make plays that would have saved a touchdown, or score, or something. Technique, strength, weight.... I feel good about Vrabel & his coaches addressing these issues.

Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane kinda stuff would be more of a concern.

But it looks like we've got a nice prospect to be molded.
 

Honoring Earl 34

Something Witty !
Wasn't Michael Sam the SEC defensive player of the year?
Sam didn't have the measureables to take the next step . An OLB running a 5.0 forty isn't in demand . There was a guy from Georgia named Jarvis Jones , I think , who was picked by the Steelers in the 1st round a couple of years back . This guy was all world at Georgia but ran a 4.9 or a 4.8 as an OLB and never panned out .
 

thunderkyss

Just win baby!!!
Staff member
Contributor's Club
Sam didn't have the measureables to take the next step . An OLB running a 5.0 forty isn't in demand . There was a guy from Georgia named Jarvis Jones , I think , who was picked by the Steelers in the 1st round a couple of years back . This guy was all world at Georgia but ran a 4.9 or a 4.8 as an OLB and never panned out .
Had he said anything about a poor measurables, I wouldn't have said anything. But he said,

He is a highly decorated SEC linebacker...
So I replied

Wasn't Michael Sam the SEC defensive player of the year?
 

CloakNNNdagger

Hall of Fame
Maybe Not at his current weight and strength. But his scouting report says his frame can take 10 or 15 pounds without effecting his performance levels. He's currently at about 235. At 250?
Cunningham has gained 30 lbs since entering college, and at the Combine benched only 15 times. I worry every time I read this about a rookie (and many times a vet), especially one known most for speed and athleticism, as the result is just one big crap shoot. Sometimes it's better to leave things well alone, and find him a place in the system that he will most likely thrive in.
 
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TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
Cunningham has gained 30 lbs since entering college, and at the Combine benched only 15 times. I worry every time I read this about a rookie (and many times a vet), especially one known most for speed and athleticism, as the result is just one big crap shoot. Sometimes it's better to leave things well alone, and find him a place in the system that he will most likely thrive in.
I'm not concerned about his weight. The league is favoring lighter faster linebackers and his length gives him good ability to stack and shed blockers at the point of attack.

Mckinney did only 16 reps of 225 btw and does just fine handling blockers at the point of attack.

I'd prefer Cunningham at his optimal speed weight. If he can gain extra weight and maintain his playing speed that's nice but not a necessity for playing in this system.
 

Mollywhopper

Facilitator
Staff member
Could see Cunningham fluctuating in the low 240's throughout the season while finding a comfort zone in his speed/agility and growing into a proper pro build for his frame/length.

He's a bit of a unique bird for his measurables at his position with what he'll be asked to do. No reason to necessarily pigeon hole him into every other former player's suit size. Like to think he may just carve out a new type that future players will be sized up to.
 
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badboy

Hall of Fame
Could see Cunningham fluctuating in the low 240's throughout the season while finding a comfort zone in his speed/agility and growing into a proper pro build for his frame/length.

He's a bit of a unique bird for his measurables at his position with what he'll be asked to do. No reason to necessarily pigeon hole him into every other former player's suit size. Like to think he may just carve out a new type that future players will be sized up to.
yeah this is what I expect. He is not a banger but uses speed/quickness and just instinctively knows how to "flow" around blockers and burst past to get his target. His 34.5 arms are an asset. Rob Rang compared him to Derrick Johnson & that ain't bad.
 

JB

Old Curmudgeon
Contributor's Club
yeah this is what I expect. He is not a banger but uses speed/quickness and just instinctively knows how to "flow" around blockers and burst past to get his target. His 34.5 arms are an asset. Rob Rang compared him to Derrick Johnson & that ain't bad.
If we could get a young Derrick Johnson to play in this defense next to McKinney that would be awesome
 

xtruroyaltyx

Hall of Fame
Dude does look skinny but in video he moves OL around surprisingly easily and disengages pretty effectively.
Long arms.

Trying to block a guy with long arms that knows how to use them is a *****.

Had a LB in college who had the longest arms I had ever seen. Dude looked like he could scratch his calves standing straight up. Wasn't all that tall or bulky, but If he saw you and got his hands up first he was almost impossible to block.
 

sandman

Brexit Advisor
Had he said anything about a poor measurables, I wouldn't have said anything. But he said,



So I replied
Except you replied to only part of my statement. I didn't just say he was a highly decorated SEC linebacker. I said he would be just fine because he was a highly decorated SEC linebacker, playing on a top 5 defense, with multiple pro-bowlers. Which is an entirely different statement than saying he would be just fine because he was a highly decorated SEC linebacker. Context.
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
Dude does look skinny but in video he moves OL around surprisingly easily and disengages pretty effectively.
If I remember correctly, it's his lower body that needs the most work. I agree, no unnecessary pounds, but a couple of years in the training room will add the muscle to bring his weight up to his frame, without effecting his agility or speed. Additional muscle in the right places should help withstand the rigors of pro ball.
 

76Texan

Hall of Fame
I definitely agree it shouldn't be overlooked.

However, even with all his flaws, he made a lot of tackles. You mentioned he was in the right place, right time to make plays that would have saved a touchdown, or score, or something. Technique, strength, weight.... I feel good about Vrabel & his coaches addressing these issues.

Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane kinda stuff would be more of a concern.

But it looks like we've got a nice prospect to be molded.
Actually, it was the scheme that put him in most of those situations, especially on the ones that he gave up the TDs, first downs, and committed the PIs.

So yes, he was playing like Jane on those plays.

At the end of the day, yes, Cunningham is still a good pick, because of his potential.
To me, he's in the same boat as Watson.
They both have deficiencies they need to work on; otherwise, Watson would have been 1.1 and Cunningham would have been drafted in the first round.
 

CloakNNNdagger

Hall of Fame
I'm not concerned about his weight. The league is favoring lighter faster linebackers and his length gives him good ability to stack and shed blockers at the point of attack.

Mckinney did only 16 reps of 225 btw and does just fine handling blockers at the point of attack.

I'd prefer Cunningham at his optimal speed weight. If he can gain extra weight and maintain his playing speed that's nice but not a necessity for playing in this system.
What I was trying to say was that I also am not concerned with his pre Combine playing weight.......I get concerned when acute wholesale weight changes are encouraged.
 

beerlover

Hall of Fame
He may transition into a hybrid LB/S. Who cares, he plays, impacting games. If he stays away from injury bug that seems to plauge Texan rookies gaining experience is key, plus increasing core strength, under Vrabel, I say a star could be born :wesmantexanfan:
 

bah007

Hall of Fame
I'm struggling to see where size or weight is an issue. Cunningham went from 196 as a HS Safety to 234 at the combine after training in a SEC strength program for four years. So he gained 38 pounds. That's not abnormal for a guy with his frame. McKinney went from 210 to 246 in the same time frame. 36 pounds.

Could he play stronger? Sure. Is that a size issue? I don't believe so. I think it is more likely a length issue. It is common for a longer guy to be slower to fill out his frame. I remember when Brian Orakpo was at Texas he gained 43 pounds in three years. It's not that way for everyone but it happens.
 

CloakNNNdagger

Hall of Fame
I'm struggling to see where size or weight is an issue. Cunningham went from 196 as a HS Safety to 234 at the combine after training in a SEC strength program for four years. So he gained 38 pounds. That's not abnormal for a guy with his frame. McKinney went from 210 to 246 in the same time frame. 36 pounds.

Could he play stronger? Sure. Is that a size issue? I don't believe so. I think it is more likely a length issue. It is common for a longer guy to be slower to fill out his frame. I remember when Brian Orakpo was at Texas he gained 43 pounds in three years. It's not that way for everyone but it happens.
I'm not going to contradict the basic premise of your statements. Different players can optimally develop at different weights. But I think that in the case of McKinney, it needs to be said that he left HS at 215 pounds and by the end of his 2011 redshirt year already weighed 235 pounds. He actually played and performance-proved himself at 245-250 pounds for his last 2 years at Mississippi State.
 

IDEXAN

Hall of Fame
Contributor's Club
Houston Texans Zach Cunningham selected as the 2016 Tennessee Player of the Year.
Houston Texans inside linebacker pick
Zach Cunningham was selected as the Tennessee Sports Writers Association as the state’s 2016 player of the year. The award was announced on Thursday afternoon and Cunningham will be honored at the TSWA Hall of Fame banquet on July 13th.

Cunningham was selected in the second round by the Texans in the 2017 NFL draft out of Vanderbilt which was the highest defensive selection for the school in 16 years. Cunningham led the SEC with 125 total tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. His totals during the 2016 Commodore season was the most by a defender in over a decade.

The reviews have been good of Cunningham early during the spring, especially from linebacker coach Bobby King.

“So far so good. We’ve obviously thrown a lot at him. He’s been here a couple months now, six weeks,” King explained. “We just look for him not making the same mistake two days in a row, and he’s been good at that. He’s getting better every day. I’m excited to have Zach.”

Cunningham worked through the entire spring at inside linebacker working with Benardrick McKinney and learning from Brian Cushing out on the field. Cunningham is leaning on Cushing to teach him the ways of the Texans defense and how to be a professional.

“As far as coming in, he’s a veteran so he definitely has a lot to teach me about how things are run in the NFL and how to take coaching and how to adjust to the next level,” Cunningham said of Cushing.

There are high expectations for Cunningham with the Texans in 2017 but his strong pedigree that many have noticed at his time in Vanderbilt is exactly why the Texans selected him in the draft.

“We saw a guy at Vanderbilt that was a productive guy, but with all due respect to Vanderbilt, this is a whole different ball game,” Bill O’Brien said of Cunningham. “So, he’s coming in here. He’s learning our system. He’s a guy that’s athletic. He’s a hardworking guy.”

He and Memphis coach Mike Norvell will be honored at the upcoming TSWA Hall of Fame banquet on July 13 at Baird Chapel on Cumberland University's campus. Read More

http://www.scout.com/nfl/texans/story/1785279-zach-cunningham-selected-as-the-tennessee-poy
 

TheKDog

Hall of Fame
Contributor's Club
@QBKlass: Really hope Zach Cunningham finds his footing in coverage at some point. There are only a handful of LBs better vs the run than him.

@QBKlass: Cunningham's ability to press the LoS, sift through traffic, and work past blocks is top notch. He just can't play anything in coverage that is not directly in front of him.
 

CloakNNNdagger

Hall of Fame
Source: Texans, LB Zach Cunningham reach extension
2:55 PM CT

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans have agreed to terms on a contract extension with inside linebacker Zach Cunningham, a source confirmed to ESPN.

It is a four-year, $58 million contract, according to the Houston Chronicle, with $23.5 million guaranteed.

Cunningham's $14.5 million average annual salary makes him the NFL's third-highest-paid inside linebacker, behind the Seahawks' Bobby Wagner and the Jets' C.J. Mosley.
 

texanhead08

All Pro
Source: Texans, LB Zach Cunningham reach extension
2:55 PM CT

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans have agreed to terms on a contract extension with inside linebacker Zach Cunningham, a source confirmed to ESPN.

It is a four-year, $58 million contract, according to the Houston Chronicle, with $23.5 million guaranteed.

Cunningham's $14.5 million average annual salary makes him the NFL's third-highest-paid inside linebacker, behind the Seahawks' Bobby Wagner and the Jets' C.J. Mosley.

I am stunned I figured they would screw around and he would walk next off season.
 

badboy

Hall of Fame
Obrien said he wanted to keep Cunningham and got his way. Based on other deals I expect his 23.5 GTD will be mostly in his first two seasons which does not leave much for Watson's desire for short year extension with the expected lowered cap in 21.
Most projections I've seen on three year new money at $40 m minimum per year for Dashaun. 23 space now with half to Cunningham leaves same to add to #4 this season plus four million gives total of approx. 16 to Watson. It gets much worse next year.

Guess it can be done but either a Mahommes type deal for longer duration or someone has to go.
Fuller 10, Stills and BMac at 7 each. As much as I advocate trading Fuller, I don't see him or to lesser extent Stills being traded. Obrien needs to give Watson best possible means to take Houston deeper into PO. That means targets. McKinney offers 7 but that does not seem enough.

JJ Watt 15 m might be only deal that can be reworked to add some cap and there us Fuller's 10. Would that be smart with the health issues of both? If yes, does that open David Johnson to a rework?
Interested in thoughts/suggestions.
 


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